‘This is Hangzhou’. From September 23 to October 8, the city will host the Asian Games for the first time in five years. It’s been a long wait, and for the athletes, the Hangzhou Asian Games mean more to them than ever before. We’re here to bring you a deeper, more in-depth look at what’s happening at the Hangzhou Asian Games. <Editor’s note
The Taegeuk Warriors’ three-day quest to change the color of a veteran’s last medal, to unravel a storied history of Korean rugby, and to make a difference for Korean rugby ended on Saturday with a silver medal for the first time in 17 years, but the players are looking ahead to the next challenge.
In a post-match meeting, the rugby players expressed mixed feelings about the end of their Asian Games challenge, especially since they didn’t lose a single game on their way to the final, but they also hoped to use the Asian Games as a “shot in the arm” heading into the Olympics. We caught up with Jung Yeon-sik, Park Wan-yong, and Han Gun-gyu.
“It’s too bad about Japan in the final… If we meet again, we will beat Hong Kong”
Jung, who won bronze at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, was asked how he felt about winning his second medal at the Asian Games. “My goal was gold,” he said, “but I’m happy to have won a valuable silver medal. In fact, I thought I could take home the gold more than anyone else, but it’s a shame that it didn’t happen.”
In particular, Jung Yeon-sik thanked Park Wan-yong, who has been a great support despite his retirement announcement, saying, “He is a role model. He is a senior who drills together and leads by example. I want to be like him, but I don’t think I’ll be able to play until I’m 40,” he said, adding, “Wanyong told me to think about every game with him as the last one, but it’s a shame that I couldn’t bring him a gold medal as a retirement gift.”
“Actually, I’m a little disappointed with the outcome,” said Jung Yeon-sik, “especially since we had prepared so well for the tournament. “I think it’s part of the game,” he said of the unfortunate calls that halted the Korean offense late in the final.
“It’s unfortunate that we were actually preparing for the final with Japan in mind,” Jung said, adding, “This is also our fault. If we face Hong Kong again in the Olympic qualifiers, we will prepare well and hopefully bring home an Olympic berth at the end of this season.” He vowed to do so.
“I really have to stop now… I hope the juniors can fill my shoes.”
As soon as they met in the mixed zone, Park’s playing coach, Wan-Yong Park, said “I’m sorry” instead of saying anything else. “I’m sorry I didn’t do a good job,” said Park, who came out of retirement to rejoin the national team (see also: ‘Captain’ Park Wan-yong steps on the pitch again at the Asian Games). I want to go back to the way I was before the game ended,” he said.
It was a pitch that had been retired and then returned to make new history for Korea. Park Wan-yong said, “I was happy. I was so happy. I was so happy to play again. The result may be as good as the effort, but it was very disappointing for me,” he said, reflecting on his three-day journey. “I trained hard with the players, so if the juniors can overhaul themselves, they will do well in the future,” he said.
“I think it’s time for me to stop being a player,” said Park Wan-yong, the playing coach. Park continued, “If I rely on myself, the juniors will have no choice but to stay. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t do as much as they wanted, but I hope this is the last time I’ll play. I really want to give them strength,” he said.
However, Park is still on the 24-man roster for the final Olympic qualifier in November. “I want to prepare for the final qualifiers by improving what the players need to improve, and also by preparing their minds,” Park said. “The juniors have a lot of potential, so I want them to prepare a little more and do well.
The big veteran cried… “I will prepare three or four times as much as I cheer”
Han Gun-kyu, a huge veteran, cried in the mixed zone. He said, “It’s too bad. I’m upset, and I’m very grateful and sorry to my family and fans who supported me so much,” he said. He also thanked his teammates, saying, “I’m so grateful to Jang Yong-heung, who played while getting injections while sick, and Park Wan-yong, who retired and came back to play for the team.”
“I wanted to finish with a gold medal because I won three bronze medals at the Asian Games, and I prepared with a united mind to win unconditionally once we got to the final,” Han said. “A silver medal is a great achievement, but I played while thinking about how we beat Hong Kong in the Olympic qualifiers and went to the Olympics, and it’s a shame we didn’t win. It’s a shame that we didn’t win,” he said.
Han then criticized the referees for their poor decisions.
“From our point of view, there are many regrets. The referee’s decision is part of rugby, but we should have been awarded a ‘center try’ when our score was stopped by the opponent’s foul earlier. Puzzling. We’re not going to get home advantage, but it must have shaken the players psychologically to have that happen.”
Nevertheless, the players were grateful. “The players are younger, and their will to do well has increased,” Han said, adding, “We lost to Hong Kong here, but we are determined to finish first in the Olympic qualifiers. If we meet Hong Kong, we will double, triple, and quadruple our efforts to repay them, so please support us.” 무지개토토
Finally, Han Gun-kyu said, “With the arrival of Chairman Choi Yoon, rugby has been exposed to various media and received a lot of publicity, and many people are recognizing it and giving it undeserved love.” “If you support us, we will prepare hard and reward our fans,” he concluded the interview.
After three days of traveling, the rugby team will return home at 6 p.m. on Nov. 27 at Incheon International Airport to rejoin their team. The team will be welcomed home with a ceremony and rewarded with medals.